My son decided to help me by getting an Artificial Intelligence programme to write me a ‘Lutheran Christmas sermon’! At first the programme was stumped but after a tweak it came up with a brief message – and it wasn’t that bad! We all laughed and my son chuckled that I’d be out of a job soon!
The sermon was about us. At Christmas God had come close to us, was humble towards us, and so on which leads us to be close to others, humble in dealing with others, and so on. God was the exemplar and we are to follow suit. The political and social landscape of today are the contexts in which Christians are now to follow suit. The sermon encouraged good deeds – that’s not a bad thing! – expected them to be done but assumed that everyone – Christians and non Christians alike – has the power to do the good deeds. When my son finished reading the sermon, I was impressed by much of it but I did say that I wasn’t sure how Lutheran it was – because “it was really all about law” – about us, about us doing good things.
Please don’t get me wrong. The law is very important. We should do good things all the time. Yes, Jesus and God are very good examples for us to follow. However the sermon is more an encounter with Jesus – we remember his birth at Christmas because he died and rose for us – who forgives, feeds, guides, challenges, and blesses us – so that we can follow him each day ‘doing good things’. The encounter with Jesus is all about the gospel – what God has done and does for us. Yes, a sermon can point out what needs to be done – individually and corporately (whether the body, the group is the congregation, the Church, or the country) – but the encounter with Jesus is supposed to stimulate, generate, energise us how to behave in our time and place – at home, at work, politically, socially. Christians are supposed to switch their brains on when encountering Jesus and working out what following him means rather than using Jesus to ‘back’ our preferred behaviour.
Of course, anyone can hear a sermon; the more, the merrier. 😊 But the sermon is God speaking to two different groups of people. It is speaking to God’s people who are in a relationship with Jesus (through Baptism) and says ‘be who you are – a child of God’. It is speaking to the world and says ‘become God’s people and follow Jesus’. Both groups – all people – are loved by God.
Whatever messages you hear at Christmas, may you hear Law and Gospel, what Jesus has done and does for us and which then encourages and challenges you in how you follow Jesus as you open your Christmas presents and tomorrow. Jesus is our best Christmas present always!